“One thing I’ve always liked about Cotton Mather music is that it’s always winking at you. This record has that quality.” – Robert Harrison
It took 15 years for Cotton Mather to return with 2016’s Death of The Cool (released July 19th, 2016), the first collection of songs compiled from band leader Robert Harrison’s ambitious, possibly impossible aim to write 64 songs, one for each hexagram of the I Ching, the ancient text which he refers to as an “extraordinary book about ordinary life.”
Now, in what seems like the passing of just 15 minutes, Cotton Mather will release Wild Kingdom on April 7th, 2017. The album brings together another 11 tracks, following up the 11-song Death of The Cool, and the three-track “Cotton Mather with Nicole Atkins EP” (released December 30th, 2016), that are both also a part of the I Ching song cycle.
To date, 30 of the “Songs From The I Ching” have been released.
“Wild Kingdom is more a change of season than scenery,” Harrison states. “While I was writing the first half of the I Ching project, I tended to circle the songs with a requisite richness and gravity because I thought it important to do something for the first release in fifteen years that we never could have done before. Otherwise, what’s the point ‘Relatively obscure indie cult band reunites to demonstrate that maybe going away the first time was just a fine idea?’ Uh, no thank you. You have to get better!”
“Kontiki gave me something to shoot for,” Spoon leader Britt Daniel once said of Cotton Mather’s 1997 underground classic album. In addition to praise from musicians, the record was especially loved by the UK press, with both Uncut and The Guardian awarding it five-star ratings. Like the instantly memorable pop songs that made (and make) Kontiki influential – a two-disc reissue released in 2012 received similar praise all over again, and Kontiki was also finally released on vinyl at the end of 2016 – Wild Kingdom continues in the Robert Harrison tradition of impeccable song craft that doesn’t ever let up on the hooks, or the winking.
“Many successful bands are fairly monochromatic, which strikes me as both difficult and uninteresting,” Harrison explains. “My aim has always been to escape. To change the scenery behind the singer.”
A visit to the “Songs From The I Ching” website (ichingsongs.com) reveals the tangible take on this, with imagery for each song depicting Harrison standing in front of Mt. Fuji, the Jardin des Tuileries, The Kansas City Monarchs, and the Terra Cota Soldiers, among others.
“But the problem always remains,” Harrison continues. “It’s always just me.”
That’s probably just Harrison just winking again.
Wild Kingdom, the latest album by Cotton Mather, arrives on April 7th, 2017 containing 11 tracks comprising another portion of the 64-track “Songs From The I Ching” project that also includes the 11-song Death of The Cool album (released July 19th, 2016) and the three-track “Cotton Mather with Nicole Atkins EP” (released December 30th, 2016.)
Visit ichingsongs.com to read Robert Harrison’s in-depth song commentaries explaining the relationship between each individual track and the I Ching hexagram it is based on.